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America's Best High Schools list

Cedar Rapids (KWWL) - Two eastern Iowa schools are being named as the best in the country.

News Release:

Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Cedar Rapids Washington high schools have been named to the U.S. News and World Report's 2009 list of "America's Best High Schools."  Kennedy and Washington are the only Iowa High Schools that met the three criteria required for inclusion on the list of 604 schools considered to be the top-performing high schools in the nation. There are 427 public high schools in Iowa.

 "It is a wonderful honor for Kennedy and a great tribute to the work of our faculty," noted Dr. Mary Wilcynski, Kennedy Principal.

One hundred schools (none in Iowa) received gold awards, and 504 high schools received silver awards.  Kennedy and Washington received silver awards.  This is the second year that U.S. News and World Report has published a list of "America's Best High Schools."  Kennedy was also a silver award winner in 2008.  The gold medal schools are predominantly magnet or charter schools for gifted and talented students where students must complete a selection process to be admitted.

To produce the list of "America's Best High Schools," U.S. News teamed up with the School Evaluation Services (SES), a K-12 education data research business run by Standard and Poor's.  SES developed the comprehensive methodology, which determines how well high schools serve all of their students, not just those who are college-bound.

 "This measure of school effectiveness seems to take a rather comprehensive look at each school's academic performance," added Dr. Ralph Plagman, Washington Principal. "It is quite an honor to be named one of America's top-performing high schools by the U.S. News and World Report."

The SES researchers analyzed 21,069 public high schools using a three step process.  Schools could not apply for the award, and schools did not submit information.  Analysts utilized data from state departments of education, the College Board, and International Baccalaureate of North America.

The first step determined whether each school's students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the state.  Reading and math results were considered.  In Iowa, it was ITED scores that were studied.

For those schools that successfully cleared the first step, the second step determined whether the school's least-advantaged students (African American, Hispanic, and low income) were performing better than average for similar students in the state.  Reading and math proficiency rates for disadvantaged student groups were compared with statewide results for those groups.  The ITED scores were again used.

Schools that made it past the first two steps were then judged on college-readiness performance.  This third step measured which schools produced the best college-level achievement for the highest percentages of their students.   The number of 12th grade students who took at least one Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam sometime in high school was one factor in determining college-readiness performance.  How well the students did on those tests was the other factor.

"This is a wonderful and well-deserved tribute to the students, parents, and staff members of Kennedy and Washington," added Dr. Dave Markward, Superintendent. "My hat is off to them. To be recognized by U.S. News and World Report is an impressive indicator of the quality education offered and accepted in our schools." 

U.S. News and World Report is not the only news magazine that evaluates high schools.  Newsweek has been ranking high schools for five years.  The Newsweek list of "Best American High Schools" is released each May.  For the past five consecutive years, Washington and Kennedy high schools have been the highest ranked Iowa high schools on the Newsweek list.  The selection criteria for the Newsweek list differ from the criteria for the U.S. News and World Report list.

For more information on U.S. News and World Report's "Best American High Schools" go to:


Online Producer: Maria Magner

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